A violent attack on a mother has left shopowners fearing they are under siege from opportunist thugs.

Businesses along Finchley Road, in Temple Fortune, have called for drastic safety improvements after 50-year-old Lorretta Paterson was beaten by three men during a carjacking on Friday evening.

The mother-of-three, from Holden Road, Woodside Park, was left with a deep cut across her head and bruising on her face and body following the assault.

In a harrowing account, Ms Paterson recalled being shunted forward into the car and ordered to start the engine so her attackers could escape.

“I don’t know if they hit my head or my head hit the car, but it was split open and blood was gushing down,” said Ms Paterson, who needed ten stitches in the cut.

“The men were pulling me about, and then they wrenched off my jewellery. I am bruised and battered throughout.

“I couldn’t really see, I was feeling faint and the blood was just pouring down my eyes. They threatened to kill me if I didn’t start the car for them,” she added.

Ms Paterson, who owns Temptations gift shop on the parade, had just left Nail Works when the three suspects pounced on her from behind at about 6pm.

The men, described by police as black, aged between 18 and 21, then smashed into parked vehicles as they drove off, with Ms Paterson’s dog Minnie, still in the car.

“I was beside myself with worry as my dog was taken off,” she said.

Fortunately Minnie was returned later after being handed to a dog walker in Wembley.

“It was Halloween, and at first people thought it was a joke and I’d had ketchup poured all over me. It didn’t take them long to realise this was a serious incident,” said Ms Paterson.

Ms Paterson was taken to the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, for treatment.

A police spokesman said Ms Paterson’s silver-grey coloured BMW X5, was found the following day dumped in Willesden.

Detective Inspector Duncan Wood, from Barnet Police, said: “This was a violent and unprovoked attack on a lone female in a busy location.

“I am sure there were many people in the vicinity at the time and I would call on anyone with information to come forward.”

Businesses in the area claim they have been subjected to a spate of robberies in the last year, and said they are suffering from a lack of CCTV and street lighting along the road.

One shop owner, who did not want to be named, said his premises had been targeted three times in the past few months.

“People are very concerned,” he added. “We are all being affected, and it could get out of control. We feel under siege.

“It needs police and Barnet Council to take action and redirect resources to stop it developing.”

Ms Paterson said: “People need to know what’s happening out there. I’m scared of the dark now and I have had to have my shop keys and house keys changed.

“Temple Fortune has been targeted very badly. It’s a wealthy area and a lot of women walk around wearing nice jewellery and driving nice cars but they need to have their wits about them — it’s not safe.”

Ms Paterson said she felt pity for her attackers, but believes more needs to be done to protect the community.

“I’m very angry but they are very young and I feel sorry that they have entered into a life of crime and that’s the only way they know now,” she added.

“I wish I could tell them what they have done to me.

“They don’t know the knock-on effect it has had on my family, on my friends, and the fear it has installed into people now.”

Jessica Le, who is manager of the nail parlour where Ms Paterson left, helped her after the attack.

“I have to lock the shop door now — I am petrified,” she said.

“It is scary that we are being targeted, and we all feel very vulnerable. My female customers have cancelled their evening appointments because they are worried about coming here.”

A council spokesman said five cameras would be installed in the Temple Fortune area as part of a £600,000 investment in CCTV across the borough.

He added: “Prior to installation, the council will continue to monitor crime patterns, in partnership with the police and if there is a clear shift in these patterns the installation programme has the provision to review timings.”

Police are appealing for anyone with information about the attack to call 020 8733 4417.